Decemberists still going strong

By Acacia DiCiaccio

Decemberists Kris Krüg Flickr
(Flickr: Kris Krüg)

The Decemberists are so influential in the independent music scene because, while they maintain a distinct sound, none of their albums ever sound the same. From the sea shanties of their first album, “Castaways and Cutouts,” to the rock riffs of 2009’s “The Hazards of Love,” The Decemberists display great versatility. Their latest album, “The King is Dead,” which was released on Jan. 18, maintains a very folksy sound.

The Decemberists are known for their utilization of many different, often obscure instruments, including accordion, melodica, organ, harpsichord and upright bass. The prominent use of harmonica gives this new album its distinction.

“The King is Dead” begins with a joyful burst of song that cannot help but bring a similar joy to its listeners. Even at first listen, “Don’t Carry it All” can be considered one of The Decemberists’ top songs. The lyrics from the chorus, “beneath this bold and brilliant sun,” accurately depict the song’s blissful sound.

The second track, “Calamity Song” is nearly as addictive as its predecessor, with an equally sprightly beat.

Those who attended The Decemberists’ concert at Amherst College in 2009 may remember a beautiful acoustic song they debuted, entitled “Rise to Me.” This passionate song is included on “The King is Dead” as the third track and displays a more rare, emotive side of the band that can only been glimpsed in older songs, such as “Red Right Ankle.”

The culmination of the old-world, folksong sound manifests itself in the fourth track, “Rox in the Box.” However, The Decemberists bring a modern view to a style of music that could otherwise be too old school for some people’s taste. The song “All Arise!” is infused with country roots, while “June Hymn” is reminiscent of Bob Dylan.

Though The Decemberists often write lyrics with diction inspired by traditional folklore and historical references, the themes of the album span across all eras and culture. This album holds less narrative and more universal themes.

Lead singer Colin Meloy is known for his unique but shaky lead vocals. This time around, his voice carries a bit more cleanliness while still preserving his signature sound. Those who love his distinct voice will not be disappointed, yet the music may be more enjoyable to those who would have previously considered it annoying. His vocals, though cleaner, are somehow freer as well. “The King is Dead” celebrates the beauty of personal freedom.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at [email protected]